It’s that daylight savings time of year again, and you know what that means…cranky kids, temper tantrums, and no sleep for you, right? Well, not necessarily…we’ve got you covered. The ‘spring ahead, fall back’ time changes can mix up everyone’s schedule. The loss of just one hour can really affect a child’s attention span, appetite, and overall mood. You can minimize the effects of daylight savings time by being prepared.
Here are some helpful tips on how to get kids back on track so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.
Allow Time for Gradual Adjustment:
It takes some time to adapt to a loss of sleep. So if your child normally goes to bed at 8 p.m., put him/her to bed at 7:45 p.m., then 7:30 p.m., and so on, until they are going to bed as close to 7 p.m. as possible. This step-by-step process is not as much a shock to the system, as it is when you abruptly expect your child to fall asleep an hour earlier after the time change. If you’re having trouble getting your child to bed earlier, which is often the case in older kids, then just focus on getting them up in the morning a bit earlier instead. When daylight savings time ends in the fall, this gradual approach can still help — follow the same guidelines — just push the wake-up times and bedtimes a little later rather than earlier.
To Make Bedtime Easier, Control the Lights:
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your body’s internal clock. The levels of this hormone increase in the evening as it becomes dark to help induce sleep. Melatonin levels decrease when it’s light out to assist with wakefulness and alertness. Daylight savings time alters your natural cycle, and the results can be particularly difficult for kids. I recommend dimming the lights in your child’s bedroom and turning off all electronics about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. According to The National Sleep Foundation, these devices can reduce sleep time, sleep quality, and daytime alertness because of light exposure and brain engagement right before bedtime.
In the morning, you should try to get your child into the light as much as possible. Natural sunlight is best, so if weather permits, make sure there is sunlight entering your home, or turn on the lights so it’s nice and bright! To help when you “fall back,” make sure your child has some light exposure in the early evening. Be careful to ensure that your child’s room doesn’t become too bright too soon in the early morning.
Establish a Routine:
When daylight savings time begins or ends, it’s especially important to stick with a bedtime routine. Your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw him off. It’s absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime because that’s what helps create a powerful signal for sleep. One option is giving your child a warm bath, reading him a book, and snuggling together before lights out.
Get Enough Sleep Beforehand:
In the days before you change your clocks, make sure your child is getting plenty of shut-eye. Sleep results in more sleep, so going into daylight savings time well-rested will greatly help your child because he won’t be cranky and overtired, which can make falling asleep even harder.
Be Supportive and Understanding:
In the days following daylight savings time, try to be more forgiving if your child is throwing extra temper tantrums or seems to be particularly frustrated or difficult in any way. The time change can cause these short-term changes in your child’s mood, but your understanding and support will help them adjust a little better to the new schedule.
Take Care of You:
And most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself too! Many adults feel sluggish and cranky themselves after the time switch, so make sure you’re getting the rest you need as well. Thankfully, these effects are all short-lived — within a week or so, everything should be back to normal.
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